Missiles Fired From Yemen Miss U.S. Navy Ship in Escalation

Updated on
  • No damage to the ship or injuries among its personnel
  • Saudi prince says he supports 72-hour ceasefire in Yemen

The USS Mason was targeted in a failed missile attack from Yemen, says the Navy

Photographer: STR/AP

A U.S. warship was targeted in a failed missile attack from Yemen, the Navy said on Monday, two days after rebels there accused the Western-backed Saudi coalition of killing more than 140 people in an airstrike on the capital Sana’a.

The USS Mason, sailing in the Red Sea off the Yemeni coast, detected two inbound missiles over a 60-minute period, Paula Dunn, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. Both missiles hit the water and there were no injuries and no damage to the ship.

“We assess these missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen,” Dunn said, referring to the Yemeni rebels. The Houthis denied they fired missiles at any warship, the rebel controlled Saba news service said.

The airstrike on a funeral hall in Sana’a prompted the U.S. to announce an “immediate review” of its support to the Saudi-led coalition’s war with the Shiite rebels and their allies. The coalition pledged to launch an investigation into the incident, which injured more than 500 people.

U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Monday in a statement that the U.S. should “retaliate swiftly and decisively” if the rebels indeed fired the missiles. He also warned that Iran should be held accountable for supporting groups like the Houthis who take aggressive action against the U.S.

Call to Arms

Yemeni media controlled by the Shiite Houthi rebels posted photos of the destroyed hall and medics removing dead bodies from the scene and blamed the coalition for the strike. One photo showed several people buried under rubble. Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key backer of the Houthis who commands the support of sections of Yemen’s army, demanded reprisals against targets inside Saudi Arabia.

Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi also called for fighters to return to the front lines. “What’s keeping them at home without an excuse?” he said in a speech. “Are they staying so the war planes can attack them at their homes? Everybody should go to the front.”

For a QuickTake explainer on the roots of Yemen’s war, click here.

Saudi Arabia, the champion of Sunni Islam in the Middle East, assembled a military coalition in March of last year to help restore the rule of President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi and curb what it described as a surging Iranian threat. The campaign began with airstrikes, followed by the deployment of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In a call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his foreign minister said they support a renewable 72-hour ceasefire as soon as possible provided the Houthis agree to it, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Humanitarian Crisis

The prince, in an interview with Bloomberg in March, said the warring parties in Yemen were close to resolving the conflict and that the Saudi government had “good contacts” with the Houthis. Peace talks that ensued over the summer in Kuwait ended without an agreement.

The 18-month conflict has exacerbated Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. About 3,799 civilians were killed between March 2015 and Aug. 23, 2016, according to a recent UN report. More the than 3 million people have been displaced, the UN said.

Although Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners were able to retake the southern port of Aden in July last year, they have failed to stabilize much of the country and defeat the Houthis, tenacious mountain fighters battling a superior army with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The militia regularly attacks Saudi border posts and has fired missiles into Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Najran.

Saudi-led coalition forces intercepted on Sunday a ballistic missile fired toward the city of Taif, which is about 700 kilometers from the Yemeni border and home to the King Fahad Air Base, the official Saudi Press Agency said. The attack caused no damages or casualties, the news service said.

(Updates with statement from Graham in fifth paragraph.)
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